Cellulosic ethanol on a commercial scale has accounted for a small amount of Iowa's total annual ethanol production, the state's Renewable Fuels Association said last week.
Iowa, which produced 3.9 billion gallons of ethanol in 2014 – up from 3.7 billion gallons in 2013 – is the no. 1 ethanol producing state in the U.S.
Plants in Iowa in 2014 were the first to produce cellulosic ethanol on a commercial scale, with the first gallons coming from the Quad County Corn Processors ethanol plant in Galva, Iowa, in July.
A few months later, POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels, LLC, officially opened its commercial cellulosic ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa.
Iowa Renewable Fuels Association looked favorably at these advancements of Iowa's plants, but noted concerns about federal ethanol policies.
"It was nice to see Iowa take a step forward both in terms of overall production and diversity of feedstocks," IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw commented in the group's year-end announcement.
Shaw said key issues, like uncertainty with the Renewable Fuel Standard and consumer access to E15 have been roadblocks to improving the ethanol industry's growth.
"Ethanol continues to be the world's cheapest source of fuel octane and until U.S. energy policy is straightened out the growth opportunities for ethanol may be in exports," he said.
Despite the RFS uncertainty, which is underscored by the U.S. EPA's November decision to delay release of final 2014 volumes until later this year, a second Iowa plant is currently under construction and Abengoa has already opened its Kansas cellulosic plant.
In all, IRFA says, Iowa has 43 ethanol refineries capable of producing more than 3.8 billion gallons annually, including 22 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol annually. In addition, Iowa has 12 biodiesel facilities with the capacity to produce nearly 315 million gallons annually.
2014 is the first time in three years ethanol production in the state has expanded, IRFA noted.